Video: Coast Guard Seaman awarded Purple Heart in ceremony at Chatham station

Jake O’Callaghan/CWN

CHATHAM – From the United States Coast Guard: “… Tampa, under the command of Captain Charles Satterlee, was one of six Coast Guard cutters assigned to convoy duty in European waters during World War I. Armed with four 3-inch guns, she escorted eighteen convoys, losing only two ships and earning a special commendation for exemplary service.

On 26 September 1918, having just detached from her 19th convoy, and sailing alone through the Bristol Channel toward the Welsh port of Milford Haven to recoal, Tampa was torpedoed by the German submarine UB-91. Exploding amidships, she sank in just under three minutes. One hundred and thirty men lost their lives, including 111 Coast Guardsmen.

The sinking of the cutter was the single largest loss of life for the Coast Guard during World War I. The sacrifices of her crew were not forgotten. The city of Tampa conducted a fundraising campaign, “Remember the Tampa!,” to an effort to sell war bonds. In 1921, the Coast Guard christened a new cutter in her name. Seven years later, on 23 May 1928, The US Coast Guard Memorial was dedicated at Arlington National Cemetery, honoring the sacrifice of those who had served aboard Tampa.”

Seaman Norman Finch of Springfield, Massachusetts was one of the 130 Coastguardsmen and Sailors killed. His family lives in Brewster and participated in a Purple Heart Ceremony on Monday afternoon. The family was escorted to the Chatham Station by members of Big Nick’s Ride, The Patriot Guard, Rolling Thunder and the Police and Fire Departments of Brewster, Harwich and Chatham. Prior to the ceremony the family hung United States Coast Guard Flags on the Route 137 bridge over Route 6.

“…At the time of Tampa’s loss, the Purple Heart was not authorized. In 1942, eligibility was extended to include the Coast Guard, but it was not until 1952 that the awarding of the Purple Heart was made retroactive for actions after 5 April 1917. However, Tampa was overlooked until 1999, when then-Commandant Admiral James Loy authorized the posthumous awarding of the Purple Heart Medal to the crew of CGC Tampa.”

“The Purple Heart may be awarded to any member of the Armed Forces of the United States who, while serving under
competent authority in any capacity with one of the Armed Forces, has been wounded, killed, or who has died or may die of wounds received in armed combat or as a result of an act of international terrorism.”

Bridges for the Fallen would like to thank the riders from Big Nick’s Ride, The Patriot Guard, Rolling Thunder, The Brewster Police Department, The Brewster Fire Department, The Harwich Police Department, The Harwich Fire Department, The Chatham Police Department, The Chatham Fire Department, The Harwich Chamber of Commerce, The VFW Post 8607 Brown-James-Buck Memorial Association, and the Mason Jar.